BiH court orders detention of arrested Wahhabi Islamic group members

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina - The Bosnia and Herzegovina Court on Friday (February 5th) ordered a one-month detention for seven of the eight Islamists arrested last week in a raid on a Wahhabi community in Gornja Maoca, near Brcko.

Among the eight were alleged leader Nusret Imamovic. Others taken into custody included Croatian national Adnan Rustemi. According to reports, "large quantities of weapons", along with communications equipment, were seized from the group, which moved to Gornja Maoca in 2002.

At 4am on February 2nd, an estimated 600 BiH police agents launched the tightly co-ordinated operation dubbed "Light". They encircled and raided a radical and isolated Islamist community of about 400 members in the northern BiH village.

The group is known as Wahhabi, a community of devout Islamist fundamentalists, cut off from the world while allegedly maintaining electronic equipment to stay in touch with their jihadist brethren.

Stefan Feller, head of the EU Police Mission (EUPM), said that while the threat of terrorism in BiH has not been exaggerated "institutions in this country are capable of coping with this problem".

The Wahhabi sect is charged with either using or threatening to use force to try to overthrow constitutional order or topple BiH's highest institutions. It is also accused of attempting to secede from the country.

The indictment further states that group members "sought to cause racial and religious hatred, animosity and intolerance among the peoples and citizens of BiH" through a variety of methods.

The police action -- the largest concerted effort by law enforcement since the Yugoslav war -- was ordered by the Court and Prosecutorial Office of BiH.

The strike involved more than 240 vehicles and an array of law enforcement agencies. They included intelligence and security officers; border police; officials from the Alien Services Office; the State Investigation and Protection Agency, police from Republika Srpska; officers from the BiH Brcko district; uniformed officers with the Federation of BiH police, along with representatives of the EUPM.

The Wahhabi community in Gornja Maoca was created several years ago after its members were expelled from the village of Bocinja. It has been under official surveillance ever since.

The group's presence in the countryside, however, only distracts authorities from activities in Sarajevo, according to one terrorism expert.

Dzevad Galijasevic, a Bosnian Muslim and member of the SEE Expert Team on Terrorism and Organised Crime, warns that the Wahhabi have had no trouble meeting with members of terrorist groups in Sarajevo. He says business between extremist organisations takes place at the King Fahd Mosque in the capital.

After the drama of the raid, Galijasevic said "while all eyes are up on Gornja Maoca, the Wahhabis and members of terrorist organisations have been allowed to smoothly conduct their business in Sarajevo. Gornja Maoca is only one tentacle of the huge octopus, with its head in Sarajevo … at the King Fahd Mosque".

The day after the raids, Doris Pack, head of the European Parliament delegation for Southeast Europe, called the arrests necessary, while underscoring the significance of high-functioning security in nations seeking EU membership.

"Fundamentalists, and this is what the Wahhabis are, must be understood seriously … the state must demonstrate that it is in control of the situation," she said.